Mount Vaux
Mount Vaux in British Columbia's Yoho National Park is a strikingly beautiful mountain that is readily noticeable from many other peaks in the Canadian Rockies.  This is due in large part to the Hanbury Glacier which is draped all over the east side of the mountain and makes Mount Vaux gleam brightly when the weather is clear.  On 9 September 2011, Vern Dewit and I scrambled up Mount Vaux via Alan Kane's described route.  Before our trip, there had been a lot of discussion about Kane's route and whether or not it was truly a non-technical climb.  Kevin Barton and Rafal Kazmierczak climbed Mount Vaux in 2007, but unable to find Kane's scramble route through the crux, they roped up to climb the cliff band guarding the summit block.  Complicating matters was Kane's route photo which I believe is marked incorrectly.  Vern had even gone so far as to consult Kane himself as well as the legendary Rick Collier about the route, but in the end, we decided to simply go try the route for ourselves.

Starting from right near the Trans Canada Highway, we made our way across a logged area to the base of a very obvious gully running all the way down the southwest face of Mount Vaux.  After ascending a rocky slope full of raspberry bushes, we entered a shallow canyon that had water flowing intermittently for much of its length.  We eventually emerged from this canyon and began a very long slog up a wide avalanche slope.  The foreshortening here is severe, and every time I paused to look up, the scenery seemingly did not change except for Vern getting further and further ahead of me!  Frankly, I had no illusions of keeping up with Vern on this day, but it was disheartening to look at my GPS every once in awhile and realize that I still had an enormous amount of elevation to climb ahead of me.  I eventually lost sight of Vern in the increasingly complex terrain of the upper gully, but he would occasionally give out a shout just to check that I was alright.  He even built the odd cairn to point me in the right direction.  This upper section is steep and entails more hands-on scrambling, but I preferred this to all the treadmill scree lower down.  Prior to the start of our trip, Vern gained some insight on the route by studying the photo of Kane's partner, Sim Galloway, on the crux.  Vern figured that Barton and Kazmierczak had probably wandered a little too far to climber's left of the crux which is perhaps why they had missed it.  Vern stayed as much to climber's right as possible and eventually found the crux across a snow ridge.  The snow ridge itself was quite daunting as it dropped away steeply on both sides, but I managed to get across safely by stepping in Vern's footprints (Vern wisely donned his crampons here, but I was too lazy to dig mine out).  The crux consists of a series of small ledges going up a steep wall.  The exposure here is significant, but more alarming to me was the looseness of the rock.  As Vern remarked to me later, he felt like everything he touched seemed to move.  Above the crux, I had to contend with more loose scree before finally gaining the summit ridge.  Vern, who had reached the summit about 45 minutes before me, came partway down to cheer me on as I staggered up the remaining few vertical metres.  I was finally on top of Mount Vaux.

Vern was kind enough to hang around with me for another 37 minutes on the summit while I snapped photographs and devoured a sandwich.  On descent, we stuck fairly close to each other on the upper mountain in order to minimize the danger from rockfall.  Fatigue was catching up to me though, and I caused a few near-misses on the way down.  I even slipped at one point while downclimbing the crux but managed to catch myself before momentum could send me hurtling down the mountain.  My GPS was not so lucky as it slipped off my pack and bounced down to the snow ridge below.  I managed to retrieve my GPS (it still worked) but not without some difficulty.  After scrambling down some steep sections below the crux, we utilized lingering snow patches to help speed our descent.  While I glissaded a few sections (sometimes involuntarily), I never felt comfortable enough to completely let myself go probably because of the steepness of the slope.  Plunge-stepping seemed to work well enough for us though, and that is how we descended much of the upper gully.  Once we reached the wide avalanche slope, we were clear of all difficulties although we still had a lot of elevation to lose.  This part of the day seemed to drag on forever as we descended endless rubble with a hot afternoon sun beating down on us.  The intermittent streams lower down were most welcome as our water supplies began to dwindle.  As we emerged from the shallow canyon near the bottom, we noticed a black bear feeding among the raspberry bushes along our route.  Ironically, I had convinced Vern to leave his bear spray in his car when we began our trip, but that did not matter as the bear simply moved off once it noticed us coming down the slope.  A last annoying thrash through the logged area had us back at Vern's car.

This was a big trip on a big mountain, and I want to thank Vern for doing the legwork in studying and researching the route, for driving, for route-finding, and for being great company as usual.

Be sure to check out Vern's trip report and photographs here.
That water will be very refreshing later in the day. Vern heads up a shallow canyon near the base of the gully.
This view doesn't change for a long while! The gully opens up wide above treeline.
I wish I had brought my iPod for this part! Very boring! Vern grinds his way up the gully.
I still have nearly 3 hours of climbing ahead of me here! Vern makes his way up increasingly complex terrain in the upper gully.
Much steeper than it looks! A black band of rock guards the summit block.
Vern went left while I went right. Here is the crux.  The route crosses the snow ridge and goes up the right or left side of the shadowy crack at left.
To make things worse, the rock quality is crap. Test all your holds! The terrain near the crux is very steep and exposed.
I was totally outta gas long before I even got here! Vern waits for Sonny to ascend the summit ridge.
Vaux baby! Yeah! Sonny and Vern stand on the 3310-metre summit of Mount Vaux.
The register was still in great shape after 50 years! The summit register, which dates back to 1961, is housed in this copper pipe.
That's over 2 vertical kilometres below! Most of the route can be traced all the way down the gully to the highway.  Also visible is the Kicking Horse River.
I was staring back at this peak from the summit of Mount Hunter only 12 days earlier. The Columbia Mountains stretch across the western horizon.  At the centre is the long southeast ridge of Mount Hunter.
Mount Sir Sanford and Adamant Mountain are over 100 kilometres away! Porcupine Peak is in the centre foreground while Mount Sir Sanford (left) and Adamant Mountain (right) are the most prominent peaks on the distant horizon.
Rick Collier apparently took 2 days to ascend Mount Hurd!! Mount Hurd is the next summit to the north.
What a beautiful mountain! Over 70 kilometres away to the northwest is the striking form of Mount Forbes.
Like icing on a cake! The top of Hanbury Glacier follows the contours of Mount Vaux's north ridge.
I think the pointy one on the horizon at far left is Recondite Peak. Some of the peaks visible to the northeast include Mount Niles (left), Mount Daly (centre), and Mount Willingdon (right).
Mount Stephen's 1900-metre ascent seems like a walk in the park after climbing Mount Vaux! Also visible to the northeast are Mount Stephen (left) and Mount Hector (far right).
It's a nice day to be on top of any of those peaks! The peaks that are clearly visible on the eastern horizon include (L to R) Mount Lefroy, Glacier Peak, Ringrose Peak, Hungabee Mountain, and Mount Temple.
Wonder if anyone has ever tried skiing this glacier... The Goodsir Towers and Hanbury Glacier dominate the view to the southeast.  The pointy peak at far left is Mount Ennis.
Ironically, the most visible peak in the southern Rockies--Mount Assiniboine--is NOT visible from Mount Vaux! Here is a closer look at the Goodsir Towers.
Both are likely seldom visited. Both the outlier and pond to the southeast are unnamed.
"Looms" or "beckons"?? :-) Vern descends the summit ridge.  Chancellor Peak looms to the south.
As Alan Kane says, this is not an ideal trip for large groups. The terrain below the summit is very loose and steep.
The photo really doesn't do justice to how steep it is here. Despite the great views in the distance, Vern focuses his attention on downclimbing the crux.
With the snow, this really isn't even scrambling anymore! Vern carefully steps on the ridge of snow just below the crux.
Rock quality is still crap though, so again, check your holds! This section is not nearly as nerve-racking to descend as the crux.
Looking good, Vern! Vern pauses to admire the views after clearing the most difficult sections on the mountain.
Unfortunately, the snow patches were just a tad too steep and narrow for a comfortable glissade. Vern continues his descent down the gully.
Still a long way down from here... Vern re-enters the shallow canyon near the lower end of the gully.
Alan Kane's route photo on his website is incorrectly marked! This is the route as viewed in Google Earth.
Okay, I'm ready to scramble the Goodsirs! ;-)

Total Distance:  9.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  12 hours 30 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  2190 metres